The Pennsylvania Constitution: A Treatise on Rights and Liberties.

JurisdictionUnited States
AuthorAbrahamson, Shirley S.
Date22 March 2005

By Ken Gormley, Esq., Principal Editor; Jeffrey Bauman, Esq., Joel Fishman, Ph.D., Leslie Kozler, Esq., Associate Editors. Philadelphia, PA: George T. Bisel Company, Inc., 2004. Pp. xxvii, 1000.

Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court got it right in his Foreword. Professor Gormley has brought together in one volume an in-depth analysis of Article I, the Declaration of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Kudos belong not just to Professor Gormley as principal editor, but also to Attorneys Bauman and Kozler and Dr. Fishman as associate editors and to the nearly three dozen professors, judges, prosecutors and lawyers who contributed to this volume.

Since the 1970s, state supreme courts have increasingly looked to state bills of rights and declarations of rights to determine the people's rights and liberties. (1) This renewed emphasis on, and revitalization of, state constitutional law has been dubbed "new judicial federalism." (2)

State courts have, without question, the power to interpret their state constitutions differently than the United States Supreme Court has interpreted parallel, analogous federal constitutional provisions. (3) The issue state courts face many times each year, however, is whether and when state judges should engage in independent analysis of the rights secured in the state constitutions. The treatise provides the Pennsylvania Court's answer to these questions. In 1991, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared it important and necessary that when a provision of the state constitution is implicated, an analysis of the state constitution be undertaken. (4)

The jurisprudence of state constitutional law, as the authors of the chapters in the treatise repeatedly demonstrate, is not of recent vintage in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a rich body of case law and historical material on the making of the constitutions and the Declaration of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution dating to the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. According to Professor Gormley, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the oldest court in North America, (5) and the Pennsylvania Constitution, drafted in 1776, is twelve years older than the federal Constitution. (6) The Declaration of Rights, "which occupied a premiere place in the text," (7) became a model for numerous other state constitutions, and along with other state constitutions, served as a "template for the United States Constitution." (8)

For each of the twenty-eight...

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